Random chatter on the channel

There are some things that can be categorized and some that cannot be; and then there are these little uncategorizable (I created a new word…Hurray!!!:D) things that have this “Aha” factor about them which tend to not get talked about. Sometimes its an interesting movie, a soulful song, a useful tip from a fellow human being etc. that makes you go “Wow/Gee/Ooh/Mmm/OyeHoye” … somehow these things fall through the cracks when you write, unless you’re writing a review.

My life has been filled with countless such little things (like everyone else’s), and so here I am here trying to share some of these. I decided to call it “Random chatter” because of the randomness that arises from bunching together unrelated things in a bulleted list and also because the phrase sounds nice to my ears. Seems to fit the definition of the word “Arbit” quite well (short for arbitrary, origin: IIT lingo; interesting to see many of the words have been passed on to mainstream language).

-> I came across a series of travel/city books titled “Cheap Bastards guides”, these guides have specific tips on living a free life in cities like Boston, NYC, San Francisco & Chicago. Here’s the website http://www.thecheapbastard.com/, they do mention they even got the website done for free. Pretty Cool! But going by the principle, why would someone want to pay for these guides, shouldn’t they be available for free 😀

-> Found this gem of a website for online music. It has all the good ingredients: very user friendly, is free, Minimal ads, no popups, no clutter, no player installation needed and a very very good music collection. May I present http://www.dhingana.com/. Key features: allows you to create & maintain multiple playlists and share playlists, here’s a more exhaustive list. Do visit their About Us page.

->Some movies that I thoroughly enjoyed (and learnt some things too 😉 ):

  • The Notebook (it feels nice to be a hopeless romantic sometimes)
  • The scent of a woman (watched for te 3rd time, am short of words for this movie, I can just say its fantastic)
  • The Shawshank redemption (it’s good to have a short term and long term plan)
  • The story of Us (very realistic movie, liked the idea of thinking about your high and low for the day)
  • Pay it Forward (based on a beautiful idea that works on the honor system)
  • Ahista Ahista (life can be simple & sweet)
  • Swades (watched 2nd time, it isn’t easy to follow your heart, but it can turn out to be the right choice)
  • Good will hunting (See below)
  • Dead Poets Society (See below)

This is the below that was mentioned above: The world likes conformity, it makes it easy for people to categorize people, but is that the purpose of our being…to be categorized? Humans have individuality and are NOT like Cattle! I look around and see that the majority of our systems are built to treat all people and situations alike … rules, company policies … somewhere somehow individuals are forced to conform. The greatest thinkers, inventors, artists, revolutionists weren’t conformists…gotta remember that!

-> Visited New York city a few days back. It was a trip I was looking forward to and I read a lot on the internet to understand the basics. A few key points:

  1. I over-read :, it’s possible to enjoy the city without the weeks of reading that I did. On the other hand, preparation does help and knowledge, as you know, never goes waste. It did help me navigate around the city more efficiently.
  2. NY City and subways aren’t as dangerous as the movies of 90s made us believe.
  3. The city is fast paced, crowded and the city’s character is similar to Mumbai/Bombay’s.
  4. Walking across the Brooklyn bridge is nice, and view is better if you’re walking from Brooklyn to Manhattan rather than in the other direction.
  5. A visit to Empire State building is worth the wait (it has approx. 90 mins of wait) and the view from the 85th floor is amazing. But, it’s really crowded unlike what we see in the movie Sleepless in Seattle.
  6. Walking is the way in NYC, you tend to walk for miles and not know it. Ofcourse you do know later when your feet ache like hell. Good walking shoes help!
  7. NY hotdog & pizza is something you shouldn’t miss.
  8. Taking the one day unlimited use fun pass for the Subway is a good idea.

-> Found two awesome Indian restaurants around Boston to satisfy my Punjabi taste buds and keep me going…(Research has proven that Tandoori chicken contains a chemical that is found to reduce home sickness :D, don’t ask me who the researchers were though)

  1. Punjabi Dhaba @ Cambridge: simple restaurant, self service, the USP of this place is the flavor and price. Flavor is way way better than most Indian places around here and prices are so affordable that makes me wish we could eat there everyday if we lived closer. There’s usually a long queue at this place running right into the street, and its a long wait, but the wait is worth every minute. No cards, only cash.
  2. Kashmir @ Newbury Street: classy 4-star Indian restaurant. USP is food and ambiance, is a little pricey though. There’s also an outdoor seating and the place has flavored hookah, I don’t care much about the hookah as I don’t smoke any more. Here are some reviews.

-> One of my school friends has been working on this India search engine called Dwaar, very interesting website. Give it a shot, it might help you find what you had been looking for … http://www.dwaar.com/

-> To wind up this post, here’s a very interesting article from the Wired magazine that talks about how games can be leveraged to makes machines learn from human behavior.


Places that showcase knowledge

Never been to museums much, atleast in the last few years. Visited a few as a kid and hardly remember anything from those visits, I do have some faint memories of the Nehru Planetarium and Rail Museum in Delhi. Thought let’s give it a shot one more time.

Visited the MIT museum in Cambridge last month. Seemed like going there was a big thing, the kind of thing which becomes an experience that you remember. The place seemed geeky, well that was something I had expected. Stepping through the halls in the museum area, it seemed like you’re leafing through various topics, and running through the chronology of events and milestones in the past decades. Real models, machines, theory explained and a proof of concept demonstrated. Well, that’s what engineering really is: see an issue, identify the problem, devise a solution and provide proof that the solution works. That’s what education does for us, teaching us to solve problems. And each problem we solve conditions the mind for newer problems.

At MIT museum, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics were the halls that mesmerized me the most. Going through the AI & robotics hall, seeing that the greatest challenges are comprised of attempting to solve problems that can be stated simply these are the kind of problems that are most complex to solve. Early models demonstrated on getting machines to do predictable tasks, but tasks that required accurate coordination….making a machine walk, run, perform a somersault. Some of the newer research explored a whole new paradigm, that it’s not just about wiring a machine to do a fixed thing but the future lies in building a machine that is capable to learning and adapting to changing conditions. The robotics hall had some models on display that attempted to solve these problems. AI has the potential of making a huge impact by having humans spend time on tasks that make full use of human faculties and let machines take care of mundane tasks that machines can be taught. In a way, automation is happening all around these days, and is directed towards achieving the same results … reducing manhours spent on performing repetitive work.

The other section that was impressive was the Holography hall. About that, I won’t say much….you have to see it to experience it 🙂

Science Museum in Boston is another museum that I visited. Massive place, 4 floors and a diverse range of topics, from wildlife to flora fauna to mathematics to computers to engines, a whole day isn’t enough to cover the museum and absorb what it has to offer. From what I got a chance to watch, the best things I liked were the Abacus (finally got to see it after seeing so many pictures of it) and Aibo, the robotic dog from Sony. Aibo sure is an interesting machine, the form and shape makes you forget it’s a robot and not a real dog.

There’s so much to see and learn in these places and it really opens up your eyes wide and mind wide open. Sometimes, it makes you think there’s only a small percentage of people in this world who’re impacting how the rest of us live our lives and to a great degree, the future too. Makes you want to contribute too, in whatever way you can. But for now, I’m back to my usual life with a MIT pen as memorabilia and a T-shirt from the MIT store that reads “There are 10 types of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who don’t”. Geeky, eh?